Finweek English Edition - - ADVERTISING & MARKETING -

Sur­prise was their se­cret weapon. At first glance, Michele An­der­son and An­nemarie McKay re­in­forced a com­mon male “boobs and bums” per­cep­tion of pub­lic re­la­tions dolly-birds. As nu­bile and sylph-like a pair as you could find in the busi­ness world, they looked per­fect to dec­o­rate a cock­tail func­tion or cham­pagne break­fast, sur­rounded by their team of clones.

But be­hind those sac­cha­rine looks were t wo of the sharpest mar­ket­ing minds in the coun­try. And when client con­de­scen­sion turned to shocked re­al­i­sa­tion, the founders of Magna Carta be­gan build­ing what be­came the big­gest and most suc­cess­ful rep­u­ta­tion man­age­ment group in South Africa.

But all good things come to an end. Three years ago An­der­son at­tracted the at­ten­tion of ex­ec­u­tives in the Ketchum Group, Magna Carta’s global af­fil­i­ate, and now oc­cu­pies a top po­si­tion at its At­lanta head­quar t er s where s he man­ages Ketchum’s busi­ness devel­op­ment for the whole of the south­ern US. And now McKay Ichikowitz (to use her mar­ried name) is call­ing it quits af­ter three years as CEO. She’ll be spend­ing more time with her young fam­ily, and r un­ning t he Ichikowitz Fam­ily Foun­da­tion ded­i­cated to her­itage, en­vi­ron­ment and ed­u­ca­tion.

It’s 19 years since An­der­son and Ichikowitz started out to­gether with Wel­come Msomi as Msomi Hunt Las­caris, even­tu­ally end­ing up at the head of what be­came Magna Carta. They knew the value of their sex ap­peal, but that was di­rected to­wards the more im­por­tant ob­jec­tive of putting PR on the map as a core busi­ness tool.

“We made it se­ri­ous, chal­lenged the sta­tus quo and con­verted PR into rep­u­ta­tion man­age­ment,” says Ichikowitz. “When we were the run­ner up in the spe­cial­ist agency of the year award cat­e­gory in the Nineties, we felt PR had come of age.”

By 2006, Magna Carta had be­come the big­gest PR con­sul­tancy in the coun­try and has con­tin­ued to main­tain its lead over com­peti­tors. To­day it is a com­pany of 70 peo­ple earn­ing R70m-R80m in an­nual fees and com­mis­sion, and it has been named PR Con­sul­tancy of the Year four times in a row by Tony Koen­der­man’s AdRe­view. When it won the Eskom ac­count five years ago, it signed SA’s big­gest PR con­tract ever, dou­bling the size of the agency.

The fo­cus in re­cent years has shifted to build­ing an African PR net­work, un­der­stand­ing so­cial me­dia and es­tab­lish­ing proper mea­sure­ment of PR re­sults. For years, PR prac­ti­tion­ers have re­lied on an un­sci­en­tific method­ol­ogy of mea­sur­ing col­umn cen­time­tres, and valu­ing it at a mul­ti­ple (usu­ally three) of the publi­ca­tion’s ad­ver­tis­ing rate.

Proper mea­sure­ment, says Ichikowitz, en­tails un­der­stand­ing what the client wants to achieve, ad­just­ing the val­u­a­tion for rel­e­vance and prom­i­nent us­age, and mea­sur­ing qual­ity as well as quan­tity. “We are one of very few PR con­sul­tan­cies with a ded­i­cated re­source look­ing at mea­sure­ment,” she says.

In the era of so­cial me­dia, PR has grown in im­por­tance, and it is no longer un­com­mon for the PR arm to take the lead role in a mar­ket­ing cam­paign, says Ichikowitz.

TBWA CEO Derek Bouwer says the agency’s legacy is a solid blue-chip client base to which it of­fers glob­ally aligned and in­no­va­tive PR ser­vices. It was re­cently named by the Holmes Report as the 2013 African PR Agency of the Year.

Michele An­der­son (left) & An­nemarie

McKay in ealier times

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